Thailand’s Political Unrest has Thaicom Caught in the Middle

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PARIS — Satellite fleet operator Thaicom of Thailand says it is negotiating a delicate path between the Thai government, which has forced the company to shut down broadcasts that support a massive Thai protest movement; and the protesters themselves, who have occupied Thaicom ground facilities and clashed with police there.

Seeking to reassure the government that it is complying with its orders, Thaicom on April 29 issued a statement to the Stock Exchange of Thailand saying it has done its best to shut down People Channel Television (PCT) despite difficulties resulting from the fact that PCT, as the customer of a Thaicom customer, has no direct relationship with Thaicom.

In its statement, Thaicom says it asked its customer carrying PCT to stop the broadcasts in early April. In response to a Thai government order, Thaicom began broadcasting its own signal to jam PCT C-band programming on April 7.

But two days later, the government learned that PCT broadcasts had restarted, this time in Ku-band, on broadcasts from another Thaicom customer outside Thailand. Thaicom said it asked its customer to remove PCT from the program lineup, which the customer apparently refused to do. Thaicom says it resorted to encrypting the PTV broadcasts so that they could not be received in Thailand.

Thaicom threatened its customer carrying the PCT programming with a complete shutdown of the C- and Ku-band capacity the customer was leasing, and on April 23 the customer stopped the PCT transmissions.

Hoping to head off any government threats to revoke its operating license, Thaicom is asking Thai authorities to recognize the complexity of the situation. Thaicom is following the government’s orders even though doing so “may endanger the company’s employees and assets” as demonstrators have occupied the company’s Lad Lem Kaew and Kaerai ground stations and demanded that the banned broadcasts continue.

“[T]here was a clash between the demonstrators and security officials” at the Lad Lem Kaew facility, and demonstrators continue to occupy the Kaerai site, Thaicom says.